March 22, 1920: Washington ratifies women’s right to vote

On March 22, 1920, the Washington state legislature voted unanimously to ratify the 19th amendment. The Herald went to press that evening, spreading the news that the nation had finally begun to catch up with the state, which had enacted women’s suffrage 10 years prior. Here’s an excerpt from the front-page story:

Scores of women leaders were here from all parts of Washington to celebrate the expected ratification.

Secretary of State L. M. Howell agreed to give the pen with which he will sign the suffrage resolution to Mrs. Donner Baker of Seattle. Mrs. Baker and Lady Willie Forbes, Seattle attorney, called on Howell to arrange for the ceremonies attendant upon signing the resolution. He agreed to stage the proceedings as they wished. As soon as the resolution passed both houses, Secretary Howell was to certify it and send it to Washington.

Women in the state started to campaign for suffrage in 1909. And, by the following year, they received it. Washington was the first state in the twentieth century and the fifth state in the Union to give women the right to vote.

Herald reporter Gale Fiege wrote about it near the 100th anniversary of the vote in 2010:

A century ago, Washington became one of the first states in the nation to give women the right to vote alongside their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons. But the tale that leads to this centennial is full of little-known histories.

Even before Washington achieved statehood in 1889, women already had won the right to vote, only to see it taken away a few years later when the territorial Supreme Court reversed the decision on a technicality.

The story, with its cast of famous and infamous characters, includes chapters on the state flower, the liquor lobby, labor unions, poster paste and a lot of ladies determined to win a better life for themselves and their families.

On Nov. 8, 1910, men in Snohomish County and around the state cast their ballots and decided overwhelmingly to give women the vote. The news from Washington state energized the national women’s suffrage movement and the fight for what would become the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Women’s suffrage took effect nationally on Aug. 26, 1920, eight days after the amendment was ratified.

See for yourself: Check out the March 22, 1920 edition in our collection of historical front pages.

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